One day when I was on vacation and I was at Mass. In front of me was a mother and child. The mother placed the child in front of her at arms length. They gazed at each other for some time. The child gazed at his mother was a steady silent gaze. Then its face broke into a wondrous smile, from its lips joy is screeched and its little hands began to clap happily. The child rejoiced that it was loved and the face of the young mother shone with a beauty that no artist could capture. From then on, whenever I hear a screech at Mass, that is my vision. I am jealous.
That is what I see when mother and child are caught up in “the gaze”. Often, when I am on vacation, I get caught up so often observing the interplay between mother and child just as I do when I celebrate Mass. There is something going on with that interplay. Whatever I have to say is being ignored. There is something more satisfying, more full-filling being offered in that interplay for the mother and child than what I have to offer. Of that I am certain.
I came across the following quotation, in which I have found food for thought over many years;
“Mothers beauty infinitely surpasses the glory of nature. It is an unimaginable beauty, the only one that you can imagine this woman attending to stirrings of her infants. Christ never speaks of beauty. It is the only company He keeps, but under it’s true name: Love. Beauty comes from love, as daylight comes from the sun. As the sun comes from God, as God comes from a woman exhausted from childbirth. Fathers go to war, to the office, sign contracts. Fathers are in charge of society. That is their business, their great affair. A father is someone who represents something other than himself in his relationship to his child, and who believes in what he represents: law, reason, experience. Society. A mother does not represent anything in relationship to her child. She does not stand in relationship to it, but is around it, inside, outside, everywhere. She raises the child up at arms length and presents it to eternal life. Mothers are in charge of God. That is their passion, their sole occupation, their loss and their empowerment at the same time. To be a father is to play the role of father. To be a mother is an absolute mystery, a mystery without reference point, a absolute that is not relative to anything, an impossible task that is nevertheless fulfilled, even by bad mothers. Even bad mothers stand in their nearness to be absolute, they have an intimacy with God that fathers will never know…….
Mothers have no rank, no pull. They are born at the same time as their children. Mothers grow up in life at the same time as their child and as the child is equal of God, from the time of its birth, from the beginning mothers are inside the holy of holies, fulfilled by everything, ignorant of everything that fulfills them. And if all true beauty comes from love, where does love come from? From what matter does it matter derived, from what nature its super-naturalness, beauty comes from love. Loves comes from attention. Simple attention to the simple: humble attention to the humble things: living attention to all lives, and surely to that of the little cup in its cradle, incapable of feeding itself, incapable of everything but tears. The first knowledge of the newborn, the single possession of the prince of the crib, is his gift of complaint, his claim on the love far away, his screams in the direction of a life too distant-and it is mother that gets up and responds, it is God who wakes up and arises, responding every time, every time attentive above and beyond weariness. The weariness of the first days of the world, a weariness of the first years of childhood. Apart from that, there is nothing. There is no greater holiness then that of mothers exhausted by diapers to be washed, formula to be heated and baths to be given. Men hold the world. Mothers hold the eternal element that holds the world and men.” [Bobbin, The Secret of St. Francis Assisi]